Goodbye, Lone George

16 February 2022

He was the last one. And now he’s gone.

This morning, I woke up to the sad news that the last known river dolphin in Laos has died.

I called him Lone George. Although I did not even know he was a male at the time, I really felt for him ever since his companions died, one after the other. And knowing that for him it was also just a matter of time.

Back in 2016, experts declared the population in the transboundary pool in the Mekong on the border between Cambodia and Laos to be ‘functionally extinct’. Isolated from the other river dolphins further down the Mekong river in Cambodia, the population had become too small to survive.

The small population in the transboundary pool totaled just 6 in 2016. And slowly but surely (and sadly) it kept on decreasing. Until there was just Lone George. And now there are none.

People who know me say I am always positive, full of energy, seeing solutions instead of problems. But there is nothing positive about this news, no way to find a silver lining. It is nothing but sad, and it breaks my heart.

But that is today. Tomorrow, I will yell from the rooftops again – we can save the world’s river dolphins! And I will redouble my efforts to work with communities, governments, partners and WWF colleagues to enhance the health of the mighty rivers where they live. Not just the Mekong but also the Amazon, Ayeyarwady, Ganges, Indus, Mahakam, Orinoco and Yangtze.

Let this be a wake-up call! The threats that killed Lone George are the same threats that all river dolphins face around the world from Bolivia to Borneo, Colombia to China – like hydropower dams that block free flowing rivers and unsustainable fishing activities that result in river dolphins accidentally drowning in fishing nets.

We have solutions. We built a website full of solutions, full of best practices for river dolphin conservation, inspiration and hope.

We can do this. We can save the six river dolphin species around the world, in all 15 countries that still harbour river dolphins. Together, we can make this happen – will you join me?